Have Cash, Will Spend (Locally)

Have Cash, Will Spend (Locally)

At noon on a sunny day in June, about 50 people gathered in a park in Cleveland’s trendy Ohio City neighborhood. They’d been led there by the Facebook postings of Andrew Samtoy, JD, who earned his law degree at Case Western Reserve University in 2008. A few minutes later, Samtoy walked the entire group to a nearby restaurant, where they dined on locally sourced salads and sandwiches.

This apolitical, Internet-organized gathering is called a cash mob, a group spending spree at a locally owned business—a restaurant, a boutique, a bookstore.

A year ago, no one had heard the term. Today, cash mobs are happening around the globe, from St. Louis to Seoul, and dozens of cities in between.

That’s thanks in large part to Samtoy, who put on one of the first-ever cash mobs last November.

“My friends and I wondered if we could get people to show up at a local business and spend $20 each,” recalls Samtoy, an attorney with Dworken & Bernstein in Painesville, Ohio. So the San Diego native picked an independent bookstore, then announced the event on social media. “We ended up getting about 40 people,” says Samtoy.

That inaugural event touched a nerve. Local newspaper and television coverage turned into an appearance on National Public Radio and write-ups in the national media. Almost overnight, cash mobs began popping up all over. As of last count, there have been more than 300 worldwide.

“People really want to support their local communities. And local businesses are such an important part of our communities,” Samtoy says. “They’re part of what makes a neighborhood special.”

Over the past year, Samtoy has put on six mobs, in one case generating $9,000 in sales. That’s a tidy sum for a small business, and it’s money that stays in the community.

So, what’s next? “Maybe a bowling alley,” Samtoy muses, adding, “It’s been a really great ride.”